Can My Employer Reduce My Hours? What They Can and Can’t Do

Can an Employer reduce your hours

Recently times have been challenging for many businesses. With changing working settings changing, some employers might be looking for ways to ease the financial burden.

In difficult times, it can be quite common for businesses to reconsider employees’ contracts …and sometimes it may be essential.

So it’s not surprising that many people might be wondering whether an employer can reduce your working hours.

Your employer can reduce your hours. It is a legal requirement, however, that you are given notice of any reduced hours and a legitimate reason. An employer cannot bring in a change of working hours without your approval. If you do not agree with changes, contact a union rep or ACAS to find out your rights.

Why would my employer consider reducing my hours?

During times of business downturn and uncertainty, your employer may have considered changes to employees’ contracts.

One change which may have happened to you is that your working hours might have been reduced.

This can often be stressful when it happens as it can cause a lot of uncertainty. It’s worth understanding that there are usually common reasons for this happening and might be as a result of a business downturn or other unforeseen circumstances.

Your employer may reduce your hours for the following reasons:

  • Change of work structure and duties
  • Business changes such as a downturn
  • A drop in the demand for your particular product or service
  • General changes in responsibility and duties
  • Lack of work
  • Situations such as the Coronavirus

“One change which may have happened to you is that your working hours might have been reduced.”

Can an employer reduce hours at work?

If your employer is to reduce your working hours, employment law requires them to have a legitimate reason.

This means that your employers cannot simply make changes to your working hours without reasonable justification

The law states that employers need your agreement before they can change your working hours.

They must also keep you informed throughout the process. Once the process is complete along with your agreement, they can update your contact and must give you a written notice of any changes.

“your employers cannot simply make changes to your working hours without reasonable justification”

You might be wondering about the legalities surrounding changes to your hours.

Is it illegal to reduce employee hours?

It’s not illegal to change employees’ hours, but some protocol has to be followed to fall in line with employment law.

The main point is that employees need warning of any change.

Employment law states that as an employee you require ‘reasonable’ or ‘adequate’ notice if they want to make any changes, including reducing your working hours.

The definition of ‘reasonable’ and ‘adequate’ can vary depending on the industry or profession you work in, and the law isn’t fully transparent in this area.

Make sure you receive notice of any reduced hours in writing

As part of becoming well informed during any change of hours, it is advisable to ensure you are given notice of any potential changes to hours in writing.

If your employer fails to keep you fully briefed during the process it could lead to legal consequences as a breach of contract.

You should also be given the opportunity to answer the proposal for any working hours changes in writing.

Before you give your answer in writing, check with your employer on how it might change any benefits related to the pay you’re entitled to. Such as any future redundancy pay, pension contributions from your employer, and sick pay.

What should my employer do if they reduce my hours?

Before any kind of formal notice of reduced working hours, it’s reasonable to expect a conversation about why your hours will change.

If for instance, it’s due to poor performance, your employer needs to make sure they provide evidence to support the claim.

The first approach should be an honest conversation that explains the circumstances.

So this could be the reason for the change in hours and how your employer comes to the decision as to whose hours should be changed.

You are also entitled to know any new proposed hours and if there is a change of pay and reasonable notice.

Once you have been formally told in writing and you agreed, then your contract will need updating.

You should expect to receive notice within a month of all changes made and how it’s likely to affect you.

“The first approach should be an honest conversation that explains the circumstances.”

Your rights if your employer changes your contract

Although it may suit the business needs of your employer it might not work for you to reduce your working hours.

It could be that you are a working parent or because of other caring responsibilities.

If there are difficulties that might be difficult for you such as childcare or nursery hours then your employer cannot force you to accept any potential changes.

What if you don’t agree to reduced working hours?

What happens if you and you and your employer don’t agree to any changes to your working hours?

As mentioned above, employers are unable by law to make any changes that you do not agree to.

Make sure if you don’t agree with any reduction to your working hours, you bring it to the attention of your employer as continuing with any changes may be seen as an ‘agreement’ on your part.

It’s important to understand your rights if your employer reduces your hours, so speak to your trade union rep, if you have one, call the ACAS helpline or get in touch with one of our experts on employment law, here at Robertsons Solicitors.

How long can you be put on reduced hours?

Depending on what your contract says, there’s no limit to how long you can be laid off or put on shorter working hours.

But if you’ve been in this position for four weeks in a row (or six non-consecutive weeks in a 13-week period), you should be able to claim redundancy pay if you decide you’ve had enough.

And finally…

We hope this has given you some important information around changes of working hours, along with what you can do if you don’t agree with any changes. If you employer is considering changing your job description, you can view our blog.

Here at Robertsons Solicitors, we understand changes at work can be a stressful time so do get in touch with our specialist team of lawyers who can help you navigate through employment law matters.

Call us on 02920237777 to talk in confidence with one of our experienced team or click here to email us.

With an honest and ethical approach to law at Robertsons Solicitors, you will have access to our specialist team of lawyers to help you with all your employment law matters.


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